Context and Rationale
For the last seven years, I have worked at Manhattan Village Academy, a small alternative public high school. Manhattan Village Academy has approximately 350 students from diverse backgrounds, and the majority of the students come from low-income homes. For the last four years, I have taught Chemistry. Last year as part of my professional development, I took an online course, Integrating Technology in the Classroom. Coincidently, teachers at my school received training on how to develop a classroom website using www.nylearns.org. With the combination of these experiences, I began to look at how I could use technology in my classroom to improve student achievement, particularly in the areas of note-taking and preparing for tests, conducting research, and technical writing. Also, I wanted to ensure that my students acquire marketable skills for college and future employment, including computer skills and the ability to work collaboratively.
I believe that technology does and will continue to play an integral role in society and that technology should be a component of every course, in order to prepare students for their future. However, I worried that adding technology for technology’s sake would be problematic. I began with many questions. What pieces of technology could and should be incorporated into my chemistry classroom? Would adding the technology change the pace of the course? How would student interest be affected? Would the technology ultimately lead to student success? How would I be affected by instigating these changes?
Brief Review of Literature
The Pew Studies have shown that 87% of teenage students have a computer in the home and internet access. The news constantly reports that students must prepare for their future by learning to utilize technology, to problem solve, and to collaborate. Studies have shown that giving students computers does not necessarily lead to student achievement or improvement. Other studies have shown that technology can improve student achievement depending on how the technology is used in the classroom.
The first question to answer was what pieces of technology to incorporate into the curriculum. Since I had already received training about websites, I began by developing a classroom website. The website would serve as a focal point for the class.
My course is usually my students first experience with lecturing; consequently, students have great difficulty with taking notes. In order to help students with note-taking, I developed Powerpoint lectures. This was not a straight-forward process. There was an evolution of Powerpoint lectures throughout the year, beginning with brief Powerpoint lectures written with complete ideas, then Powerpoint lectures using a preview before note-taking strategy with online interactive assessment games, to more bare-bones lengthy Powerpoint lectures with demonstrations and mini hands-on experiments.
I assessed the effectiveness of the Powerpoint lectures through quiz and test grades, since students may use their lecture notes on all quizzes and tests. I would also use data gathered from student surveys and observations.